Indonesia investigates StanChart over $1.4 billion transfer

FILE PHOTO: A Standard Chartered sign is seen outside of a building, with a branch of the bank, in Jakarta, Indonesia September 28, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside/File Photo

By Cindy Silviana and Hidayat Setiaji-JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia is investigating reports that $1.4 billion (1.07 billion pounds) held by Standard Chartered Plc <STAN.L> in Guernsey, mainly on behalf of Indonesian clients, was transferred to Singapore just before the island moved to new tax transparency rules, tax and regulatory officials said.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Guernsey’s Financial Services Commission were looking into that movement of assets in late 2015 – months before the Channel Island adopted a global framework for the exchange of tax data.

Under those rules, countries automatically share annual reports on accounts belonging to people subject to taxes in each country. Britain, Guernsey and Singapore have all signed up, but Guernsey implemented the rules ahead of Singapore.

The investigation was first reported by Bloomberg, which cited anonymous sources saying that Standard Chartered reported the matter itself to the regulators. It said the sources said regulators were looking into Standard Chartered’s processes, but had not suggested the bank colluded with clients to evade tax.

Standard Chartered said last year that it was to close its trust operations in Guernsey and centralise that part of its business in Singapore.

Standard Chartered declined to comment. A MAS spokesperson said in a statement: “As our supervisory probe is still ongoing, we are unable to provide more information at this juncture.”

Indonesian and other regulators have not identified the customers or given information about concerns about the funds.

“We are now checking their annual tax reports, as well as their report of assets, for those who participated in the (Indonesian) tax amnesty,” Hestu Yoga Saksama, a spokesman for Indonesia’s tax office, said.

“If those assets are reported in annual reports or declared during the tax amnesty, it surely means there are no problems. But if they were not, we are going to follow up under the prevailing regulations.”

Ken Dwijugiasteadi, the head of the tax office, later told a news conference on Monday that 81 clients were involved in the transfer, including 62 who were tax amnesty participants, and none were government officials, law enforcement officers or in the military.

“We will look for possible tax crimes, but any other criminal probe is not my business,” he said, adding that his office hoped to finish the investigation this month.

Heru Kristiyana, the deputy commissioner for banking at Indonesia’s financial regulator (OJK), told Reuters by text message on Monday that a supervisor was investigating the issue.

He said the regulator was co-ordinating with the director general of taxation and the anti-money laundering agency, the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPTAK).

A spokesman at PPTAK had no immediate comment, while the anti-corruption agency did not immediately respond.

Singapore and Indonesia said in July they were ready to share financial data automatically for tax purposes.

Both countries could start exchanging financial information from next year if they introduce the necessary legislation, Indonesia’s Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has said.

The Indonesian government launched a tax amnesty scheme last year to improve compliance and to encourage tax payers to bring back billions of dollars stashed abroad. Most of the offshore assets declared by taxpayers during the amnesty programme were kept in Singapore.

(Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Kanupriya Kapoor and Anshuman Daga; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Clara Ferreira-Marques, Neil Fullick and Jane Merriman)

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